2020 BHUTAN FESTIVALS

TSHECHU is a religious festival held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.

 

Tshechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. In addition to the mask dances, tshechus also include colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment. 

It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages, they are performed jointly by monks and village men. 

According to legend, all these dances appeared in the past Buddhist master's vision during their meditation. The steps and moves are strictly followed as it was performed in the past. Alteration of the steps is seen as sacrilegious and would not be attempted by any masked dance teacher.

Two of the most popular Tshechus in the country are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals, many tourists from across the world are attracted to these unique, colorful and exciting displays of traditional culture.

Most tshechus also feature the unfurling of a Thongdrel - a large Thangka typically depicting a seated Padmasambhava surrounded by holy beings. The mere viewing of which is said to cleanse the viewer of sin. The Thongdrel is raised before dawn and rolled down by morning.

Following is the list of festivals which take places in various districts which you can refer and perhaps plan your trip to Bhutan around it. With the growing numbers of tourists visiting Bhutan, we would recommend travelers to plan as early as 6 to 9 months ahead to secure flights and hotel reservations.

Given the fact that Paro and Thimphu Tshechus are the most visited festivals in Bhutan due to it's accessibility, we would also suggest travelers to explore the "less popular" festivals held in other areas such as in Bumthang, Trashigang or Lhuentse for example. 

  • Punakha Drubchen

    During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then, Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.​

     

    The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militiamen dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.

    2020 03 02

    2020 03 04

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    Punakha

  • Punakha Tshechu

    The Punakha Tshechu was introduced in 2015 in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.​

    Together with the Punakha Drubchen, these two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.h Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.

    2020 03 05

    2020 03 07

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    Punakha

  • Tharpaling Thongdrol

    Different from most festivals in Bhutan, no chams /dances are performed during this entire festival of Tharpaling Thongdrol. It is a one day festival and is mainly the display of gaint thangka or thongdrol (applique silk work with buddhist images) of Jowo Jampa and Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam which are displayed every year alternatively (15th day). The Thongdrol is preceded by prayer ceremonies called the Moelam Chenmo which is performed by the monks of Tharpaling Lhakhang for 10 days to the local people of Chumey every year (1st -14th day).

    2020 03 09

    2020 03 09

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    Bumthang

  • Zhemgang Tshechu

    This annual tshechu is probably the biggest festival celebrated in Zhemgang, one of the remote districts in the country.
    Similar to other tsechus, different mask dances are performed during the festival. The highlight of the festival is the unfurling of the huge Thongdrol (large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche. It is believed that the mere sight of the Thongdrol cleanses one of all sins.

    2020 04 01

    2020 04 03

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    Zhemgang

  • Gomphu Kora

    Initiated by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye in the 16th century, this festival sees thousands of people from across the country and some from neighboring Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh gather at Gomphu Kora, which is located at a distance of 23 kilometers above Trashigang.

    People observe the day with festivals and mask dances to mark an important occasion in human history when good triumphed over evil.

    2020 04 01

    2020 04 03

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    Trashigang

  • Talo Tshechu

    Best known for its mask dances and atsara dances, the three-day Talo Tshechu pays homage to Zhabdrung Rinpoche. 

    2020 04 01

    2020 04 03

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    Punakha

  • Gasa Tshechu

    Held annually in the small district of Gasa in northwest Bhutan, the Gasa Tshechu is the biggest festival for this highlander community. Adding to the festive mood of the celebration are many unique mask dances and local folk dances performed during the festival.

    2020 04 01

    2020 04 03

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    Gasa

  • Paro Tshechu

    Paro Tshechu is held for 5 days beginning on the 10th Day of 2nd Bhutanese lunar month every year and in 2018 it is from March 27-31. The festival offers a best opportunity to witness the Bhutanese’s rich culture and history.

    The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits. It is
    also a yearly social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery. Experience the color, excitement and spectacle of the Paro Tshechu Festival.

    It is the most divine and deeply symbolic of all the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Bhutan. Dressed in traditional finery, devotees flock to the Paro Dzong to proclaim their faith and receive blessings. Monks and lay people, dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes perform festive dances of good triumphing over evil to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and horns.

    The dances and costumes have survived unchanged for thousands of years, each dance is an exact re-enactment of visions seen by Bhutan’s great Buddhist saints and any changes would be seen as sacrilege.

    2020 04 04

    2020 04 08

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    Paro

  • Chorten Kora

    Chorten Kora is one of oldest religious festivals of eastern Bhutan which is held annually at the Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse. This festival involves circumambulating the famous Chorten Kora on the last day of the auspicious first month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is preceded by Chenga Kora.

    2020 04 08

    2020 04 08

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    Trashiyangtse

  • Domkhar Tshechu

    Domkhar Tshechu is a 3 days festival that marks the birthday of Guru Rinpoche. The festival includes chams and dances which are performed by the local people of Domkhar village and sacred dances like Black Hat Dance are performed. The chams include mainly the Peling Chams (composition of Terton Pema Lingpa). On the last day of the festival, the lhakhang displays large thongdrols to bless the people of Domkhar village.

    2020 05 03

    2020 05 05

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    Bumthang

  • Ura Yakchoe

    Spread over five days, Ura Yakchoe festival is a time for the community to come together to celebrate their spiritual heritage after farming works are over and harvest is ready.

    Ura Yakchoe is now celebrated in honour of a status of Chador, a manifestation of Vajrapani as a dharma protector, and one of the three protective deities surrounding the Buddha in Buddhist iconography.

    2020 05 04

    2020 05 08

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    Bumthang

  • Nimalung Tshechu

    Nimalung Tshechu is a 3-days festival, and it is started with the usual chams and dances performed in other dzongkhags but on the final day, people are blessed with the display of Guru Tshengye Thongdrol in the morning. For the final day of the festival, people also get the opportunity to observe Guru Tshengye cham and Drametse Nga Cham performed by the monks of Nimalung Dratshang.

    2020 06 30

    2020 07 01

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    Bumthang

  • Kurjey Tshechu

    A one day festival for the people of Jakar and Kurjey villages to attend the Tshechu and pay obeisance to Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.Celebrated in the popular Kurjey Lakhang in Bumthang, chams and dances including the Guru Tshengye and Shinjay cham will be performed by the monks of Kurjey Lhakhang. It is then closed with unfurling of a giant Buddha/Guru Thangka painting known as thongdrel.

    2020 06 30

    2020 06 30

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    Bumthang

  • Thimphu Drubchen

    This one day festival is celebrated a few days prior to the Thimphu Tshechu. Also known as Thimphu Dromchoe, this festival dates back to the 17th century and was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. 

    2020 09 22

    2020 09 22

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    Thimphu

  • Wangdue Tshechu

    Held in Wangduephodrang for three days, this Tshechu is known for the Raksha Mangcham or the dance of the Ox. Different kinds of mask dances will be performed during the festival and the festival will concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol.

    2020 09 24

    2020 09 26

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    Wangdue Phodrang

  • Thimphu Tshechu

    One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.

     

    When it was initiated by, the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances are being performed by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (Dances of the 21 Black Hats), Durdag (Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground), and the Tungam chham (Dance of the Terrifying Deities).


    The Thimphu Tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). These additions added colour and variation to the festival without compromising its spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage-theater.
    Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to entrance evil forces and prevent them from causing harm during Tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.


    To farmers, the Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It’s an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.

    2020 09 26

    2020 09 28

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    Thimphu

  • Gangtey Tshechu

    Gangtey Tshechu is a festival that is celebrated to commemorate the great deeds of 8th century Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan. Adorned with colorful costumes, the dances are performed with outstanding energy and locals gather to witness in their finest clothes. 

    2020 09 28

    2020 10 01

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    Wangdue Phodrang

  • Thangbi Mani

    Thangbi Mani Festival is probably one of the more popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Gewog, near Jakar in the Bumthang Valley. The festival is held in the courtyard of a Thangbi monastery built in 1470, said to be originally founded by 4th Shamar (redhat Karmapa) Choki Drakpa and in the later years, taken over by Pemalingpa who belongs to Nyingma order.

     

    The festival is famous for a fire dance performed by the monks of the monastery, as well as purification rituals involving fire.

     

    The start of festival is usually marked by a ceremonial procession from the Temple to the Mewang (fire blessing), which is set up in an open area nearby. The Gomchens (the lay monks) perform purification rituals while all the people and guests jump over the flames to get themselves purified from their sins and evil deeds. It is believed that if one is able to jump over the flame three times he or she is protected from ill luck and misfortunes are removed for that entire year. Then mask dances and folk dances are performed as scheduled in the enclosed courtyard of the Thangbi Mani monastery.

     

    One of the unique mask dances of this place is the sacred dance of Goem Bernak (Black Mahakala) the male protecting deity. Another unique activity is that the men throw buckwheat dough balls on the spectators with screaming noise. This is to eliminate the harmful desires of the evil sprits and warding them off from the auspicious gathering. Another interesting age old tradition which is still practiced is the offering of Chang and Puta (buckwheat noodles) by the community girls to the guests. The girls offer Chang and noodles even to the strangers. If you get such treats whether you enjoy it or not, it is customary that you give some cash present to.

     

    There is a significant historical background that the community in this valley produced quality buckwheat noodles. During the reign of the Second King, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuk, he always ordered Puta from the households of Shukdak Gonpa the far end of the valley. The king sent his Courtiers to Shuda Gonpa quite frequently to fetch Puta when he desired for a change or when he had Royal Guests.

     

    The festival comes to an end by performing closing ritual where all the people of that community gather to receive blessings and pray for the wellbeing of all sentient beings for the year to come.

    2020 09 29

    2020 10 01

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    Bumthang

  • Jakar Tshechu

    Jakar Tshechu Festival is held for three days. It is Jakar or Bumthang District's Official Festival of the year and the Festival occurs inside the historical Jakar Dzong. The entire region of Jakar or Bumthang goes on an official holiday for three days to witness this Jakar Tshechu Festival.

    2020 10 23

    2020 10 27

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    Bumthang

  • Chhukha Tshechu

    Chukha Tshechu is celebrate in front of the Chukha Dzong. The main attraction of this festival is the unfurling of the giant Throngdol of Guru Rimpoche amidst different mask dances and traditional folk dances and songs.

    2020 10 24

    2020 10 26

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    Chukha

  • Jambay Lhakhang Drup

    The festival is held for dual reasons; to commemorate an establishment of Jambay Lhakhang (temple) in 7 th century and to honor Guru Rimpoche, a saint who introduced Tantric form of Buddhism in Bhutan. A variety of traditional and mask dances are performed and each dance bear significant meaning/importance.

     

    This festival is one of the most important in Bhutan and its high light is the ‘Mewang” – the fire ceremony and the ” Tercham” – a religious dance. A fire dance is held in the evening to bless infertile women so that they may bear children.


    Mostly Terton Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer of the 15th century, composed the festival dances.

    2020 10 31

    2020 11 03

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    Bumthang

  • Black Necked Crane Festival

    The annual Black-Necked Crane festival is celebrated at the courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha valley. This festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part in their daily lives during the winter months. This annual festival is also organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black-Necked Cranes.

     

    The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by school children.

    2020 11 11

    2020 11 11

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    Gangtey

  • Pemagatshel Tshechu

    Held in a district known for its numerous festivals and folk songs, with the most notable folk song is the Ausa, a song that is sung during the departure of family members, friends and relatives. People from all over the district come to the district Dzong where the festival is held and all public offices will remain closed for three days when the festival is in process. As with other festivals, different kinds of mask dances are performed together with many traditional and classical dances.

    2020 11 21

    2020 11 24

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    Pemagatshel

  • Mongar Tshechu

    Mongar Dzong holds a multi-day long Tshechu consistently in its yard. Locals from close-by districts gather at the patio of the Dzong to witness the masked dances which are joined by social dances to engage the spectators. Masked dances are a huge piece of religious culture in Bhutan and supporters trust that a man is freed after seeing the hallowed veiled moves. Individuals dress in their best clothing and pack snacks to watch the dances. The majority of the moves performed at the celebration are indigenous to this area.

    2020 11 21

    2020 11 24

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    Mongar

  • Trashigang Tshechu

    The annual Trashigang Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals in eastern Bhutan. People from all over eastern Bhutan come to the festival. The nomadic community of Merak and Sakteng, called the Brokpas, stand out of the crowd with their unique dress and appearance. Different sacred mask dances are performed during the festival apart from other traditional folk songs and dances. The highlight of the festival is the unfurling of the thongdrel (large tapestry) of Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestation of Guru Rinpoche). Another thongdrol of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats) is also unfurled for the public.

    2020 11 22

    2020 11 25

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    Trashigang

  • Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham

    Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham takes place in the renowned and revered 17th century Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang only for a day. One of the most important features of the festival is the performance of Singye Cham or alternatively the Lion dance. The Cham or the dance is conducted to appease all the sentient beings and considered to wash away sins of people who witness it.

    2020 11 30

    2020 11 30

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    Bumthang

  • Nalakhar Tshechu

    The festival is held at the Ngaa Lhakhang in Nalakhar village in Bumthang. The three-day festival is one of the popular festivals in the Choekhor valley and attracts people from all over Bumthang, dressed in their finest clothes. This festival is celebrated to bring happiness and prosperity to the village and the country as a whole. It is also a symbolic prayer for good harvest and for the well being of everyone.

    2020 11 30

    2020 12 02

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    Bumthang

  • Trongsa Tshechu

    The Trongsa Dzong is one of the grandest Bhutanese monuments. It is built on a ridge & has a very beautiful structure with more than 30 temples. The “watch tower” or the Ta Dzong, overlooking the Dzong on a ridge above the Dzong has a temple to Gesar. The Trongsa tshechu one of the oldest tshechus in Bhutan. It is believed that tshechus in other parts of Bhutan was spread from Trongsa Dzongkhag. All the chams/dances are just like regular tshechu of other Dzongkhags (Rang lug gi Cham). On the last day, a Thongdrol is unfurled.

    2020 12 10

    2020 12 13

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    Trongsa

  • Druk Wangyel Tshechu

    The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.

    2020 12 13

    2020 12 13

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    Thimphu

  • Lhuentse Tshechu

    Lhuenste is one of the easternmost districts in Bhutan and borders the autonomous region of Tibet. As the ancestral home of our Kings, it hosts a number of important and sacred monuments. The most important amongst these is Lhuentse Dzong, a majestic fortress that sits upon a high ridge overlooking the Kurichu River. Almost every village in Lhuentse boasts of festivals that are unique and distinct from those in other communities in Bhutan. Two notable festivals are the Cha and the Ha festivals. They are celebrated to honor the deities and avert misfortunes. However, the most important festival is the annual three –days festival. The Tshechu draws large numbers of people together for the religious celebrations. One of the most interesting and visually appealing aspects of these Tshechus is the colorful attire of Kushithara that Lhuentse is famous for. You will come across various intricate and beautiful patterns of Kira and rich ornaments on display.

    2020 12 21

    2020 12 24

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    Lhuentse

  • Nabji Lhakhang Drup

    It is believed that this festival was introduced by Dorji Lingpa (1346–1405) in the 14th century. Through this ritual, villagers believe that by the grace of the local deities there will be no disasters or epidemics in the village, nor indeed in all of Bhutan. At the same time, the village will be blessed with abundant wealth and bountiful crops, and peace and harmony will reign in Bhutan.

    2020 12 29

    2020 12 31

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    Trongsa

  • Rhododendron Festival

    A special event held every year around the time when rhododendron is in full blossom. It is held at the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi, about 35 kms from the capital Thimphu, that gives nature lovers an unforgettable experience to engage in the beauty of wild rhododendron that grows in abundance.

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    Thimphu

  • Haa Summer Festival

    A lively and uplifting celebration of traditional living-culture, nomadic lifestyles and religious performances of the people in Haa. It provides unparalleled insight into the lives and traditions of Bhutan’s nomadic herders. It displays the traditional living culture, nomadic life styles, demonstration of local cuisines, brewing of local ara, traditional sports, religious performances, dances, songs, artifacts and natural alpine flowers. Tourists can immerse themselves in this one of a kind experience by participating in the local sports, sampling the delicious home-cooked cuisine and enjoying traditional songs and dances all while imbibing the heady local liquor (Ara).

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    Haa Valley

  • Jhomolhari Mountain Festival

    Jomolhari Mountain Festival is an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari, by communities located along one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan. Dedicated to the pristine snow-capped mountain Jhomolhari, households from Thimphu and Soe are scheduled to gather in Soe Dangochong to celebrate and share their unscathed environment and culture to the visitors.

     

    The festival celebrates the culture of the communities living together with the natural wonders that surround them: one in particular, the elusive, yet elegant, snow leopard! This endangered cat thrives in the region; several camera trap photos and definite signs have established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan.

    TBD

    TBD

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    Thimphu

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